Friday, July 14, 2006

Letter to City Council and Meewasin Valley Authority regarding River Landing Interpretive Plan - May 2, 2005

May 2, 2005

His Worship the Mayor
And Members of City Council
222 Third Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0J5

– and –

Meewasin Valley Authority
Board of Directors
402 Third Avenue South
Saskatoon, SK

Dear City Council and MVA Board Members:

Re: River Landing Interpretive Plan (formerly known as Heritage Intrepretive Plan)

It should be mentioned at the outset that what City Council asked for on September 7, 2004 was a Heritage Interpretation Concept Plan. The administrative report presented to Council that night went so far as to cite The Forks Heritage Interpretative Plan as an example of what such a plan was like. Sadly, Saskatoon’s River Landing Interpretive Plan bear’s little resemblance to the work that went on in Winnipeg in establishing The Forks into what it is today.

In Winnipeg, the process from the outset – before major decisions were made – was rooted in extensive public consultation. A heritage committee was struck and at a very early stage of the entire process an interpretive planning process was created based on public input and heritage preservation – not demolition, road development and land use decisions established through closed-door meetings as the first step in Saskatoon’s case.

Unfortunately, the River Landing Interpretive Plan (formerly know as the Heritage Interpretive Plan) process took place too late to have any real meaning. What appears to dominate the plan are little more than information panels, banners, murals, and some sculptures. Essentially all flash with little substance. There is no soul. The March 11, 2005 SP editorial essentially suggested as much.

The plan even mentions that people’s goal of going there might be ‘pub or restaurant’. Is that all there is?

The plan says only 7% of the people who visit Saskatoon are from outside the community. How are what is left going to entice people from around Canada, let alone the world, to come to Saskatoon? Information panels? Banners? Fancy benches and paving stone? Traffic congestion?

The Gathercole Building appears to be relegated to a display in the lobby of a spa hotel that is really not needed.

The archways, taken out of context of the rest of the building, will hold little meaning to visitors and residents. An example might be the coffee shop on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 22nd street where an archway from an old building was incorporated into a modern horrid looking structure.

The plan implies that the foundation of the Clinkskill House will indeed be buried under a hotel forever, with only an information panel and maybe a picture.

The Achilles heel of River Landing remains that the public was ignored from the outset. The City’s built heritage demolished. The Forks in Winnipeg talks of the public taking ‘ownership’ of the development because the process was up-front and very public. Not in Saskatoon though. How does the City expect the public here to take ownership and show pride into a development it had next to no input in helping determine the outcome?

What has been truly sad throughout is Meewasin’s decline in relevance as an agency mandated to the protection and presentation of the river valley’s natural and built heritage to one of ‘interpretation’ instead.

Saskatoon deserves better.

Thank you for your time.


Joe Kuchta
Saskatoon, SK

Cc: Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee


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